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Richter, Sviatoslav (Teofilovich)

Richter, Sviatoslav (Teofilovich)

Richter, Sviatoslav (Teofilovich) , legendary Russian pianist; b. Zhitomir, March 20, 1915; d. Moscow, Aug. 1, 1997. He began piano lessons at an early age with his father, a keyboard player and composer. While still a youth, he became active as a piano accompanist. In 1934 he made his formal recital debut at the House of Engineers in Odessa. He entered the Moscow Cons. in 1937, where he studied with Heinrich Neuhaus. Even before completing his formal studies in 1942, he had acquired a notable reputation via various public appearances. After taking the highest honors at the All-Union Competition of Performers in 1945, he pursued a career as a soloist with orchs., as a recitalist, and as a chamber music artist. In 1949 he was awarded the Stalin Prize in recognition of his formidable talent. His career took him to most of the major music centers of his homeland and in Eastern Europe in subsequent years. On Oct. 15, 1960, he made his auspicious American debut as soloist in the Brahms 2nd Piano Concerto with Leinsdorf and the Chicago Sym. Orch. Two days later these forces recorded the work, which was destined to become one of the classic recordings of the century. On Oct. 19, 1960, he made his Carnegie Hall debut in N.Y. to enormous critical acclaim. His London debut followed in 1961. In 1965 and 1970 he made return visits to the U.S. In the later years of his career, Richter limited his engagements, but his many outstanding recordings served to preserve his genius for contemporary and future listeners. He celebrated the 50th anniversary of his formal debut in 1994, and in 1995 he gave his farewell performance. However stupendous his digital mastery, Richter never permitted the mere mechanics of piano virtuosity to obscure his vision of interpretive fidelity to the score. While he naturally was a foremost interpreter of the Russian repertoire, not more so than in Prokofiev, he was also rightly acclaimed the world over as a supreme master of the great Romantic repertoire. Few pianists could hope to equal him in Schubert and Schumann, and none ever surpassed him.

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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